Dorm life

As summer draws to a close, thousands of college students will begin their migrations to campuses throughout the state. Both Indiana University and Purdue anticipate having their largest incoming freshman classes ever with Purdue expecting over 10,000 new students and IU planning for over 9,000. Many of these students will be moving into dorms and some of those dorms have seen multiple generations of students pass under their roofs. While the basic tenants of dorm living remain the same – providing a place for students to eat, sleep and study – much has changed in dorm life over the years.

Purdue University’s Wood Hall – now part of Windsor Halls – housed female students and in the 1940s featured several unique amenities:

“Much care has been given to meeting the personal needs of the residents. The laundries are equipped with electric washers, clothes driers, stationary tubs, ironing boards and electric irons… The shampoo rooms contain convenient sprays and electric hair dryers. The sewing rooms are equipped with electric machines, cutting tables and panel mirrors for those who do their own sewing or are majoring in clothing in the School of Home Economics.”

Additionally, the dorm featured a dedicated radio room as students were not allowed radios in their own rooms.

From Residence halls for women at Purdue (ISLO 378 P985 no. 175 [1942]).

Dorms often have their own set of rules and codes of conduct and these often reflected the social norms of the time. According to a 1950s-era guide for residents of the Cary Quadrangle at Purdue – which continues to exclusively house male students – each resident had to ensure his bed was made by noon each day. Since this particular dorm featured maid service, failure to make one’s bed or to leave the room untidy would result in the maid reporting the student which could ultimately lead to disciplinary action.

Another rule from the Cary Quad guidebook set out strict dress guidelines for eating at the dining hall:

From Men’s residence halls: guide for residents (ISLO 378 P985 no. 500).

Oddly, the 1971/72 issue of Indiana University’s guidebook to dorm living contains a very specific entry on its rules for serenading which must have been a popular enough social endeavor to warrant inclusion in the guidebook:

From Your key to residence hall living (ISLO 378 Iu385 no. 212).

Students have always been encouraged to personalize the small amounts of living space allotted to them. In past eras, this often involved decorating the walls with posters and maybe having a few personal items out on display. By necessity, modern students must cram much more into their rooms. Mini refrigerators, computers, televisions and gaming systems now all compete for space.

Dorm room at Indiana State College ca. 1964. From Opportunities for you (ISLO 378 IS385 no. 38).

Dorm scenes at Indiana University, early 1970s. From Your key to residence hall living (ISLO 378 Iu385 no. 212).

Dorm room at Valparaiso University, ca. 2004. From The Beacon (ISLI 378 V211be 2003/04).

One aspect of dorm life which hasn’t changed much over the years is the tradition commonly called Move-In Day where hundreds of students haul all their personal belongings to their new home. Often chaotic, sometimes emotional, and usually requiring the extra hands of parents and other family members, Move-In Day marks the official beginning of the school year for many students.

Move-In Day at Ball State University, ca. 1980. From The Orient (ISLI 378 B187o 1981).

The Indiana State Library contains an extensive collection of materials such as yearbooks, course catalogs, promotional materials and other publications related to the many colleges and universities in the state.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

The Samara House in West Lafayette, Indiana

There are several buildings designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the state of Indiana. Possibly the best known example of a private home design is the John E. Christian home, called Samara, in West Lafayette, completed in 1956. Samara is named for the winged seeds that come from pine cones. I found a book about the Wright-designed Samara in the Indiana State Library’s Indiana Division collection titled “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Samara Winged Seeds of Indiana” by Wallace J. Rogers (ISLI 720 R731f). The forward to the book is written by John E. Christian, PhD, the home owner who worked with Wright in designing and building Samara. Christian was a professor at Purdue University, and for that reason wanted the house to be built in West Lafayette near the Purdue campus. He intended to hold gatherings of students and professors there, as well as live there with his family.

After John, his wife Kay and daughter Linda visited Taliesin, Wright’s summer home and studio, Kay decided that she wanted Wright to design a home especially for their family’s needs. However, they could not afford a house at that time. Luckily for John and Kay Christian, once Wright found out that they had more than an acre of property on which to build a house, he agreed to design their home.

Wright had begun advertising his Usonian home plans that began at $5,000. Samara was meant to be one of Wright’s Usonian designs, during the post-World War II era.  Usonian design was an idea Wright had for functional but stylish homes for middle-class customers. Several entire communities around the country were designed around the Usonian ideal.

Working with Wright was not for the faint of heart. Wright reportedly had a difficult personality and liked to dictate what types of furniture, down to the lampshades, should be included in the homes he designed. In the Rogers book, there is a glossary of furniture designed especially for Samara in the back of the book. John and Kay Christian were committed to following Wright’s directives as far as décor.

In Roger’s book, the details of the designing and building process, along with pictures of the plans and furniture are abundant. Unfortunately, though the cover is in full color, the pictures in the book are all in black and white. Samara has a website which indicates that it is in the process of being updated. However, the photographs of the house are spectacular. The furniture is colorful and also looks useful as well as comfortable. There are soaring windows and intricate woodwork for which Wright’s designs are famous. Samara is open for tours during parts of the year, even though it is a private residence.  The website indicates that the house is open for tours April through November, although by appointment.

If you are interested in other Wright-designed structures in Indiana, you may want to look at “Frank Lloyd Wright and Colleagues: Indiana Works.” The picture above is a program from the event organized by Barbara Stodola that was held July through September in 1999. The exhibition was held at the John G. Blank Center for the Arts in Michigan City.

This blog post was written by Leigh Anne Johnson, Indiana Division newspaper librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or via  “Ask-A-Librarian.